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FEATURE STORY June 5, 2018

Brightening Horizons, Cleaner Air for Bangladesh’s Rural Communities


  • With 4.2 million solar home systems, Bangladesh has one of the world’s largest domestic solar power programs
  • The country is scaling up use of clean and renewable energy through solar irrigation pumps, solar mini-grids and improved cookstoves and other renewable energy options
  • Since 2003, the World Bank is helping Bangladesh increase access to electricity through renewable energy

In Bangladesh, rural life used to come to a grinding halt after sunset due to lack of access to electricity. Even for those with access, frequent power cuts led to loss of economic productivity, reduced study time for children, and women often felt unsafe walking through the streets. What did Bangladesh do to change the situation?

To provide electricity to remote and rural areas where grid electricity could not be reached easily, Bangladesh turned to renewable energy. Started in 2003, the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development (RERED) project provided access to electricity to 14 percent of the country’s population. Through a public-private partnership program with Bangladesh’s Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), 4.2 million solar home systems have been installed in rural households and remote shoals and islands. Now, the World Bank is helping Bangladesh to expand the use and access of clean and renewable energy through other interventions such as solar irrigation pumps and solar mini-grids, as well as improved cookstoves.

In April 2018, the World Bank committed an additional $55 million to the Second Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development (RERED II) Project to install 1,000 solar irrigation pumps, 30 solar mini-grids, and about 4 million improved cookstoves in rural areas.

"This stove is much more convenient, there is no smoke and I can breathe easier."
Shurjo Begum
Cookstove beneficiary


VIDEO Jun 05, 2018

Better Cookstoves Bring Fresh Air to Bangladesh's Homes

The project has already built 10 solar mini-grids in remote areas, including islands and shoals to provide grid quality electricity. The financing will also help increase use of solar irrigation pumps, a low-cost technology that is well suited to the country’s flat terrain and abundant sunshine. This switch from diesel pumps will decrease greenhouse gas emissions and save foreign exchange by reducing the government’s subsidy on diesel imports.

On top of that, $20 million from the Green Climate Fund will scale up the use of improved cookstoves, which emit 90 percent less carbon monoxide and use half as much firewood as a traditional cookstove.

The path towards becoming an upper-middle income country will be brighter for Bangladesh. The expansion of renewable energy will help reduce poverty, improve the environment, create jobs, and open up new opportunities for rural people.